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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brain Aerobics Weekly

In every issue of my free weekly Just a Bite digest (click here to sign up) I share samplings of what is being offered in the current issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly, and other articles I’ve written as well as websites and other resources I think readers might find interesting. Here is a sampling of recent exercises in BAW:

• In his short and delightful Book of Sense and Nonsense Puzzles, editor Ronnie Shushan, suggests an exercise that involves matching the names of real companies to what their names sound like they should offer. For example, choosing by sound, Swingline’s logical product would be jump ropes, not staplers. BAW provides 20 matching samples, but this is a game for which it’s easy to invent your own examples. For instance, what would companies like Dollar Tree, Carnival, Blackstone and Starbucks sell if their names reflected their products? Here is an instant, no-prep parlor game. (To order the Book of Sense and Nonsense Puzzles, click here.)

• Another exercise found in Shushan’s book is called “So I says.” I actually first encountered this game in Mind Games, the Aging Brain and How to Keep it Healthy by Kathryn Wetzel, PhD and Kathleen Harmeyer, MS, a book I highly recommend. (To order, click here.) The idea of this exercise is to fill in the blank with a male or female name that fits the descriptive passage before it. For example, “So I says to the girl blessing the food, I says, GRACE . . .” Like the previous game, you will find 15 blanks to fill in followed by encouragement to think up your own. Any name that is also a verb or noun will do: Daisy, Olive, Pat . . .

• Each issue of Brain Aerobics Weekly, includes 1) a trivia/logic quiz, 2) a word game, 3) an exercise that involves using your imagination or creativity, 4) a brief article followed by discussion questions, plus 5) a section called Potpourri, which includes additional resources or other quizzes and discussion topics I think readers might find interesting. For example, one week we talked about the origins of hot dogs and baked beans because those are both foods that are celebrated in July. But July is also both Blueberry and Peach Month, foods that are high in anti-oxidants (brain food) and that you can feel good about eating, so I also wrote about those in Potpourri. Here’s a bit of BAW trivia for you. Did you know that the names of the two main types of peaches – Cling and Freestone – refer to how easily the fruit is separated from its stones? Did you know that blueberry tea was used by early American Indians to ease women’s labor pains?

• Potpourri often contains other people’s ideas I find creative, like the guerilla knitters who knit decorations for lamp and sign posts, trees and other entities they believe are in need of a bit of brightening. I love the whimsy of their anarchy. You can learn more and see examples at http://www.flickr.com/groups/guerilla-knitting/pool/.

• Potpourri is also where I originally talked about Art in the Park in a previous blog entry and where I wrote about some of the more unusual games of summer noting that for some people, games like croquet are always fun, but others need outdoor games adapted for their frailties or simply to make them interesting again. One person who has done that is Bob Alman, who promotes two versions of a super-size form of croquet. Toequet is played with colored soccer balls that are kicked instead of hit and jumbo-sized wickets. Malletball uses the soccer balls and the new wickets along with heavy (2-1/2 pound) croquet mallets. These versions can be played on the beach, on hilly terrain, in open fields, in orchards and even in snow. The wickets can be placed in a traditional pattern, in an oval or a snaking course. You can learn more at these websites: http://www.croquetworld.com/Game/toequet.asp and http://www.malletball.com/.
• In Brain Aerobics Weekly, I also share quirky information that can be fun to think about. For example, Did you know that women laugh more than men, but men are considered funnier than women? In personal ads women say they are looking for someone with a good sense of humor much more often than they advertise their own sense of humor, whereas men advertise their own sense of humor much more often than they say they are looking for a woman with a good sense of humor. But some same that women are just being kind in laughing at men’s not-always-funny jokes. What do you think?

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